I attended a trifecta of dinner parties this weekend, where I ate a number of laudable dishes: my friend Milana's perfectly silky flan (with a sprinkle of sea salt on top), lemony roasted chicken, potato-leek soup and mushroom risotto from a lactose and gluten-intolerant couple who, despite their afflictions, always make fantastic food. But the most exciting thing I tasted was Sam Mason's "pretzels and beer." Mason, the well-inked former pastry chef at the molecular gastronomy club house wd-50, invited a handful of friends and industry folk to the Chinatown loft he's using as a staging area/laboratory for a pre-preview of his highly anticipated restaurant, Tailor, which is slated to open this spring.
As chefs Wylie Dufresne (Mason's former employer) and Paul Liebrandt (who's shopping around for his own restaurant) watched over the counter, Mason and his team bounced around their pinball machine of a kitchen, passing out dishes like squab thighs with coffee foam, fried eggplant and hyssop pesto. A peek at Tailor's cocktail list from mixologist Eben Freeman (another wd-50 alum) kept guests satiated. Freeman's spin on the Blood and Sand, made with blood orange sorbet and orange bitters, was a great refurbishment of the classic Scotch cocktail. One of Freeman's pet projects at Tailor will be infused whiskeys (a trend we called out on our January issue): root beer, cigar, and pumpernickel-raisin bread were among the infusions poured out of apothecarian bottles.
Many of the dishes Mason prepared last night out were outright savory--Sam Mason really wants you to know that his new restaurant will be a restaurant, not a dessert bar--but others blurred the sweet-savory lines in the inventive, playful manner that made him famous. Bowls of potato chips dusted with Country Time lemonade mix were drained and replenished throughout the evening, and much of the shop talk circled around the aforementioned "pretzels and beer" dessert: a bowl of very pretzel-y pretzel ice cream topped with mustard seed granola and a foam made from Spaten Optimator beer, a potent German dopplebock. "What kind of pretzels are in the ice cream?" Dufresne asked. Mason pulled out two bags: "We tried Rold Gold first, but they were buttery, creepy stuff," he said. Snyder's are the current favorite.